Stars of Thai cave rescue film say it was an ‘honour’ to be part of project

·3 min read

Stars of a new film depicting the aquatic rescue of 12 young footballers from a cave in Thailand say it was an “honour” to be a part of the project, despite having difficulty swimming and battling claustrophobia.

Colin Farrell and Tom Bateman said the experience had been “terrifying” but “extraordinary” and praised those involved, both living and dead.

Thirteen Lives follows the expedition to save the youngsters and their coach, who became trapped after the cave flooded in 2018.

The film stars Farrell and Viggo Mortensen as divers John Volanthen and Richard Stanton respectively.

In an interview discussing the film, Mortensen and Farrell praised the “selfless” and “multifaceted” effort to rescue the boys.

Speaking about preparation for the roles, Mortensen said it had been “crucial” to have the divers on set to supervise.

“Whenever you’re underwater (in) caves, it’s dangerous,” he said.

“So I think all the actors, we listened very carefully to what they were showing and telling us and watched what they did very carefully and everybody worked hard.

Thirteen Lives will be released in November (Vince Valitutti/Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures/PA)
Thirteen Lives will be released in November (Vince Valitutti/Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures/PA)

“Everybody pulled together… and that reflected the real rescue and that it was a very selfless, team-oriented effort.

“So it felt at times very real, sometimes too real, there were some very tight spots underwater.”

Farrell said: “They said you’ve done work with children… then you throw water into the mix as well, and I can’t really swim.

“It’s a different world beneath the surface of the water.

“I just felt like I was one spoke of many in a story that was so multifaceted that the burden and also the honour, were one of the same and that was what we were telling.

The film follows the expedition to save 13 young boys and their coach (Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures/PA)
The film follows the expedition to save 13 young boys and their coach (Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures/PA)

He continued: “I’ve done various things in my career but to be part of something that… in a time where the world seems to be living under greater and greater division, was really about these different people from different nationalities, different cultural backgrounds coming together for a common purpose, and one that was so terrifying, it was just a great gift.

“We felt that spirit of collaboration…the whole way throughout the shoot, and that was just a joy apart from how nervous I was in the water every day.

“As Viggo said, it was as controlled an environment as could be but, you know, water’s wet no matter how much control you have or don’t have.

“It’s pretty extraordinary that we were able to give him the opportunity to do the things that we were given the opportunity to do.”

He added: “It was quite amazing.

Murder On The Orient Express World Premiere – London
Tom Bateman said he struggled with claustrophobia while filming Thirteen Lives (Ian West/PA)

“I’m claustrophobic so I struggled pretty much every day but I still vividly remember the last dive was one of my last days and I loved this experience very, very much but my God I was happy to get out of that.”

“The guys doing it, even after everything we’ve done, I cannot believe what they did, and to be a small part of telling their story is a real honour.”

Director Ron Howard replied: “Funny, you didn’t mention your claustrophobia in your audition.”

In 2019, following the ordeal, Mr Stanton and Mr Volanthen were both presented with the George Medal for their roles in the rescue mission.

The boys, aged between 11 and 16 and who were members of the Wild Boars youth football team, had cycled with their coach to the caves to explore when they became marooned inside.

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